We can think of civic engagement as applied democratic theory. As “theory,” mastery requires the development of a theoretical understanding of both the principles of democracy and the institutional and social requisites of a democratic society (see Requirements 1 and 3 below). As “applied,” mastery of civic engagement requires the practical understanding of social processes that results from actual engagement in the community (Requirements 4 and 5). Thus the Certificate requires students to take a set of courses to acquire an understanding of how democratic processes (including the practices and institutions of civil society) work; to acquire the first-hand experience of civic engagement and civic life by participating in approved civic activities; and, finally, through both course work and other means, to reflect on the connections between these and to integrate them effectively (Requirements 2, 3 and 6).
Six requirements must be completed to earn the Civic Engagement Certificate:
- The Foundations Course (currently GOVT 346 also CSPL 201, “Foundations of Civic Engagement”),
- Maintain an ePortfolio of documents that are created in the process of fulfilling the CEC requirements,
- Five courses dealing with civic engagement,
- A minimum of forty hours of service work coordinated through the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism (OCS),
- A Practicum and
- The Senior Seminar, a capstone course.
Note: CEC requirements fulfilled before a student is admitted may be counted towards the certificate at the discretion of the CEC Advisory Panel (see IV). The requirements are described in detail below and in the appendices:
1) Foundations Course (sophomore year preferred)
This is a reading and reflection course designed to provide an understanding of the basic concepts and principles of civic engagement. Students will examine the role of the individual in a democratic society, the ways in which civic engagement may be required for a democratic society to succeed, and the limitations on the possibility and efficacy of civic engagement. A list of potential course topics and readings is given in Appendix B. We anticipate that faculty from different departments will teach the course and that each teacher will shape the course according to her/his expertise.
During this course, students who plan to participate in the CEC will prepare a document describing the place of civic engagement in their own lives and their plans for fulfilling the CEC requirements. The sophomore year is the recommended year to take this course. Students who wish to receive a civic engagement certificate must complete the Foundation course by the end of their junior year.
CEC students are expected to keep all of their writing assignments from the Foundations class in their ePortfolio. Students must submit at least one document (writing or exam) to their ePortfolio from each CEC class and a description (2-3 pages) of how the course deepened their understanding of civic engagement. During the Senior Seminar, some of the readings and student writings from the Foundations course (and other CEC related courses and activities) will be readdressed.
3) Five courses dealing with civic engagement, including any service-learning course
Students are expected to take five courses dealing with civic engagement. These courses must be selected from at least three of the six course categories:
- The Individual in Society
- The Practice of Democracy
- Ethical Reasoning
- Volunteerism and Activism
- Education and Public Scholarship
- Civic engagement in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Courses in these categories will enhance the capacity of students to deal intelligently with political and social questions in their local community, their country and the world. They will give students the skills necessary to engage in constructive action when appropriate, including the ability to understand and engage with different points of view. They will deepen students’ understanding of the theory and practice of democratic citizenship. Such courses may analyze different conceptions of citizenship, the roles individuals can play in affecting the common life of their communities – acting either as individuals or as members of groups and movements – and the appropriateness of different forms of citizen action in different contexts.
Courses will be identified three ways. First, all service-learning courses are included. Second, “Effective Citizenship” is one of Wesleyan’s “Essential Capabilities” and professors may identify such courses as designed to enhance this capability. Third, because faculty are limited to selecting two essential capabilities and it is likely that more courses enhance effective citizenship than are so marked, additional CEC courses may be identified by faculty or students by bringing the courses to the attention of the CEC Advisory Panel. Appendix C lists some courses that would qualify for the CEC. The Advisory Panel will review course offerings annually and update the list. In addition, chairs and faculty will be asked to contact a member of the Advisory Panel when new courses appropriate to the certificate are offered.
4) Service Requirement (described in more detail in Appendix D)
The CEC requires a minimum of forty hours of service work coordinated through the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism (OCS). This work can be done through short efforts over the course of a semester or through an extended volunteer experience. (Please note that while service work does not provide academic credit, it is essential if students are to acquire an understanding of what is involved in sustaining the practices of civil society and what is required to change existing social practices.)
5) Practicum (described in more detail in Appendix E)
By a practicum we mean an activity in the community such as an internship (but not confined to formal internships) that has a substantial civic engagement component, is sufficiently experiential, and contains a structured reflection on the experience in the form of readings and writing projects. The chair of the CEC Advisory panel, likely the Director of Service-Learning, reviews practicum applications to determine if they meet those criteria. The Practicum must be taken for credit, e.g. as a tutorial, an independent study, or as Education in the Field. For more details on the structure of the Practicum, see Appendix E.
6) Senior Seminar, Capstone Course
The purpose of this seminar is to have CEC students individually and as a group reflect on their civic engagement experience. Students will reread some of the material assigned in the Foundations class, review the material they have submitted to their ePortfolio, and reconsider these materials in light of their other coursework and their practical experiences. We envision students with different majors participating in the seminar and bringing the focus of different disciplines to the discussion. A major paper, essay, or research project will be required. It will most likely be taken during the fall of a senior year.